La Perla (The Pearl)

Many of the testimonies gathered together in the report Nunca más18 describe minor details of the clandestine detention center called La Perla, located in the province of Córdoba. It is estima- ted that some 3,000 detainees passed through the center. It was also called La Universidad (The University) by security forces, since the majority of prisoners were students. It had begun to operate in 1975, under a paramilitary regime in power just prior to the coup d’état on March 24, 1976, and it continued in activity until 1979. In- side the center, what was known as La Cuadra (The Block) “was the physical place where the detainees-disappeared spent the ma- jority of their captivity. The people kidnapped were brought here with serious injuries as the result of the physical and psychological torments they had suffered in offices and torture chambers. Those who survived spent the entire day laying down or seated on straw mats and covered with wool blankets, blindfolded and with their hands tied, constantly under surveillance and being threatened, where any communication was strictly forbidden. The kidnapped remained here until the military personnel and civilians responsi- ble for the extermination plan would order their ‘transfer’, which most often meant their assassination and the subsequent hiding of their bodies.”

Aveta has confronted the memory of this space. He has conceived of it, dreamt it, reconstructed it on a small scale and aesthetically pro- cessed it in a video. Today, it is possible to visit the site, converted into a Museo de la Memoria (Memory Museum) in 2009. Everything is conserved, even clean. Hugo Aveta’s scale model, on the other hand, condenses and exudes squalor; the walls are stained; the surface of the door in the back seems blurry; the walls are indeed darkened, as in memory. The windows, asphyxiated. Here, in this small scenario, the pain is almost more imaginable than it is in the very place where deeds transpired, it is perhaps more perceptible than in the real space. There is a sphere in the center of this “cua- dra”. It is a large sphere that spins on its own axis inside the enclo- sure, with obsession, inertia and indifference. It is as if with every turn it picks up remainders of a past that has remained adhered to the walls to incorporate them into its own body. It is a large pearl, as gray as smoke that has gone mad, stupefied, it stumbles and rolls about on the ground, creates a whirlwind and staggers about.

Adriana Almada